12 September 2007


12 September 2007
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE on Millennium Development Goals africa steering group


With Africa’s poorest countries in danger of missing globally-agreed targets to cut poverty, disease and illiteracy by 2015, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will convene this Friday an “unprecedented” gathering of global development and finance leaders to discuss strategies to get the continent on track, especially the sub-Saharan region, which was seriously lagging, a senior United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) official said today.

Guido Schmidt-Traub told reporters at a Headquarters press briefing that the Secretary-General had set up the Millennium Development Goals Africa Steering Group after UNDP issued a report in June showing that, despite faster growth and strengthened institutions, Africa, at its present rate, would still fail to achieve any of the Millennium Development Goals adopted by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in 2000.

Mr. Schmidt-Traub said that this was largely because the whole of sub-Saharan Africa was currently off track to meet a single one of those Goals.  The challenge, then, was to scale up the successes and that could be done by simply implementing existing commitments.  “The key message today is that existing commitments, if implemented, are enough to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in Africa.  So the focus must be squarely on implementation,” he said.

Previewing Friday’s inaugural Steering Group meeting, to be chaired by Secretary-General Ban, he said the Secretary-General had brought together leaders from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Commission, African Union, African Development Bank, United Nations Development Group, which is chaired by UNDP, and the Islamic Development Bank.

“It is an unprecedented gathering bringing together the heads, the apex I would say, of the entire international development system,” he said.  The Group was set to focus on three objectives:  the international system’s support for African Governments in implementing practical programmes to achieve the Goals in five areas -– health, education, infrastructure, agriculture and food security; the need to ensure aid predictability so that African Governments can plan years ahead for additional hospitals, schools and training doctors, teachers and nurses; and enhancing collaboration among the Group’s members at the country level.

Responding to questions, he said that the Group would also look at ways to better ensure predictability of aid.  As it stood, African Governments had great difficulty in setting national development agendas because of inconsistent and unpredictable aid flows.  “This Group will raise its voice to highlight this issue and call on donors to address it,” he said.

He said that, in all cases, concerted follow-through needed to be bolder, more effective and scaled up, he stressed.  “The meeting itself will focus on getting a fuller understanding of the objectives and then really deciding on how to follow through,” he said, adding that, to the extent possible, the organizations would lead by implementing the recommendations themselves.

The follow-through would be led by a second group called the Millennium Development Goals Africa Working Group, led by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, which would meet for the first time on 20 September, involving senior operational leaders of the Group’s organizations, plus other bodies such as the 30-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) of industrialized, market-economy countries.

“This is billed as an ongoing initiative,” and the goal was for the Group to work together as closely as possible.  He said that the members intended to meet at least twice a year and for the work to be as broad-based and results-oriented as possible.

Responding to further questions, he said that the Working Group would hopefully look to ways to avoid duplication of international efforts aimed at ensuring sustainable development in Africa.  The decision had been taken to involve mostly multilateral organizations and, at this point, there would be little Government involvement.

One correspondent said that for years African countries had said that they needed “trade not aid” and asked where was the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the list of participants.  Mr. Schmidt-Traub said no decision had been made not to invite or exclude organizations, such as WTO.  The idea was not to duplicate efforts and there were existing coordination efforts to include WTO.  If the Group decided that the trade issue should be added to its mandate, WTO would be brought into the discussion.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.